TechCrunch reported about an interview Twitter CEO William Evans gave to German magazine Der Spiegel late last week where he outlined some of their upcoming features, including alerting people to important local information.
And while many of the answers were insightful, its seems Der Spiegel does not understand the medium. Starting with their question of whether it promotes narcissism and stupdity to twits are not reporting but “simply twitter things which no sensible newspaper would ever print. Most of what is happening on Twitter of course is insignificant cackling knowledge of questionable value,” Google translated.
Twitter is talking about being a global local alert system. Put Twitter on your mobile device and register a location and they can alert people to impending disasters and serious local problems.
Google should be worried about the impact of Twitter on the future use of the internet and not think of it as a “poor man’s email”. But even using that perspective, Twitter is a extraordinary communication tool; one that could relegate search to a lesser needed tool in the web users arsenal.
Should Gmail be concerned that Twitter is being used in lieu of emailing? Has there been a decline in emails that correlates to the increased usage of Twitter? How many former email conversations consisted of 140 characters or less? And as the site reminds us:
“The result of using Twitter to stay connected with friends, relatives, and coworkers is that you have a sense of what folks are up to but you are not expected to respond to any updates unless you want to. This means you can step in and out of the flow of information as it suits you and it never queues up with increasing demand of your attention.”
Does it allow self-serving promotion? Of course, but so do all the social media and clever search engine optimizers – and for that matter traditional media is manipulated every day too.
The internet has always been a social medium reflected in its early preWeb usage of IRC channels and newsgroups. Email existed prior to the web as well and has always been the most used product on the internet. If Twitter is lowering its usage it could be a signal of a shift is the way people use the web.
Historically, simplicity and popularity have shaped the way the web has grown. In its early days, few industries – apart from gambling and the adult industry – could monetize the new medium. Then early influencers started to use the web to buy items that were simplified by the web like hotel rooms and airline tickets, which lead to more and more purchased items. People told others how easy getting hard to find things on the web was and how simple it was to buy all their Christmas presents. Ecommerce became the popular and pervasive way to buy things it is today.
Search engines too grew virally. Alta Vista, Lycos and Yahoo were the early popular engines. People had their favorites. Then Google arrived with its minimalist interface and rapid return of fairly relevant information and the rest is history. Yahoo and Microsoft cannot compete head on with Google, they have already lost that popularity contest.
Twitter is showing them how Google can be challenged. Develop community through social methods and people will make use of the product in ways the creators have not thought of, as well as build apps that help further promote its use.
With the addition of a search option, Twitter becomes a powerful tool for ‘real time’ search results. Google lags in its addition of current news items into its main search results and its news search has also been beaten by Twitter since it relies on major traditional news sources that write more detailed reports than quick 140 character eye witness exchanges and instantly posted photographs. Add this to the fact that only a small percentage of Google searchers use Google News – hence their addition into the regular search results.
Twitter’s search engine, Summize, “is very good at cataloging real-time information from its users,” as NetworkWorld notes.
If Google does not buy Twitter, the company that does get it – if they decide to sell – could be part of the future direction of the web.
Funny, Twitter, in many ways seems a lot like early Google. The pithy About Us section seems minimalist but informative. Their position on monetization almost mirrors Google’s prior to AdWords.
“Twitter has many appealing opportunities for generating revenue but we are holding off on implementation for now because we don’t want to distract ourselves from the more important work at hand which is to create a compelling service and great user experience for millions of people around the world. While our business model is in a research phase, we spend more money than we make”.
Its company philosophy “of keeping things simple and intuitive” seems similar to the “do no evil” mantra of Google.
Clearly, the company sees itself as a changing agent. As the site states, “Twitter solves information overload by changing expectations traditionally associated with online communication.”
The term ‘twittering” may become part of the general vocabulary quicker than “googling”. After all, the company’s “fail whale” is already becoming an icon, and a reflection of Twitter’s effort – lifting a whale with a flock of tiny birds. They seem to be succeeding.